Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?
Geoff Robinson The Cambodian agency defending the rape victims of New Zealander Graham Cleghorn says he got a fair appeal hearing, and his supporters shouldn’t complain. On Tuesday the Cambodian Appeal Court upheld the expatriate’s 2004 conviction and twenty year prison sentence for raping five young women in the tourist town of Siem Reap. Cleghorn’s New Zealand-based lawyer, Greg King, says the appeal court did not allow defence witnesses to be called and his family says they now fear he’ll die in prison. Ong Chanthol (OC) is the director of the Cambodian Woman’s Crisis Centre which has backed the women’s case. I asked her if she thought Cleghorn’s appeal hearing was fair.
Ong Chanthol I think so, I think so –um yeah it is fair and the girls are victims deserve to –ah- get justice because they have been in suffering; they have been waiting for justice for many years already.
Geoff Robinson We understand that his defence lawyer wanted to call witnesses but was not allowed to.
Ong Chanthol No, you can refer that question to the judge, hmm.
Geoff Robinson We also are told that he is going to appeal to the Supreme Court, what do you think about that?
Ong Chanthol I think that he has the right to do so for CWCC we are, believe in and respect the fair trial principle, so he could do that. And for CWCC we will be happy to represent the girl at the supreme court as well.
Geoff Robinson I understand the appeal was told that your centre lied and actually was directly responsible for setting up Mr Cleghorn, is that true?
Ong Chanthol Ah, this. Ah, this is really, really unacceptable. It is um groundless accusation from Mr Cleghorn, his supporter, his family and his sympathiser, no? CWCC is a big organisation in Cambodia we are working with around two thousand cases per year and we are professional NGO and CWCC is recognise over world – is recognised - now we receive so many award and right now we just confirmed that Siem Reap office who was on the case is going to receive another award from UNFPA, so if we are not a good and reliable NGO we would not get those prestigious awards – it is normal that accused or convicted always blame someone else, and Mr Cleghorn has to be responsible for his defamation on CWCC.
Geoff Robinson How did you become involved – did the five women come to you and say please help us or did you hear about them and say we can help you?
Ong Chanthol For this case the police who refer the victim to us, so the police call us, call our office in Siem Reap and inform us that there were victim of rape and they are really in despair situation. So, it totally wrong that Mr Cleghorn accuse CWCC of setting up the issues.
Geoff Robinson His family are concerned that he is likely to die in jail, does that concern you?
Ong Chanthol I, for me, I respect the right to life, but, he has to be responsible for his decision – yeah I know, his family says in last year if he would not be released he would committed suicide but I still see Mr Cleghorn was still healthy, and they raise this kind of question right, but they never look at the suffering of the girls. It is painful. It is unfair. You know, for, for the girl victim. Who make the girl suffer for their whole life? What is the future of the girl? No one discuss.
Geoff Robinson That’s Ong Chanthol, director of the Cambodian Woman’s Crisis Centre.